Exclusive: ‘Draw Mohammed Day’ – A Gratuitous Offense or a Legitimate Stand on Freedom of Speech?
by PAM MEISTER
April 27, 2010
Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creative team behind the Comedy Central cartoon South Park, were recently “warned” that their lives could be in danger should they continue to poke fun at the Prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam:
We have to warn Matt [Stone] and Trey [Parker] that what they are doing is stupid. They will probably end up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.
Of course, RevolutionMuslim.com didn’t intend to threaten the pair, but merely let them know about the “reality” of the situation. But:
Despite claims that they did not seek to invite violence against Stone and Parker, the site also reportedly revealed where the "South Park" creators work, and included a sermon calling for punishments for blasphemy against the Muslim religion.
The episode that sparked this “warning” was one where a satirical discussion took place about whether an image of Mohammed could be shown. In the end, Mohammed was portrayed wearing a bear suit. Even with that precaution, Comedy Central decided to censor part of the episode, which can be seen here.
Anyone who has seen more than one episode of South Park knows that the show is an equal opportunity offender. No one is safe – gays, blacks, whites, celebrities, fat people, liberals, conservatives, Christians, Jews, Scientologists – the list is almost endless. Speaking of Scientology, Isaac Hayes, who portrayed the character Chef for nine years, quit the series in 2006 after it mocked Scientology, which he followed. (Hayes died in August of 2008.) Interestingly enough, before the Scientology episode, Hayes didn’t seem too worried about what he called the “intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others” such as Christians and Jews, who are raked over the coals regularly in the South Park universe. Yes, the show has the capability to be offensive to someone and usually is. But it’s also very effective at skewering hypocrisy.
When asked by Reason.com which was more terrifying, crossing Muslims or Scientologists, Parker declared, “They’re really the same people.” And Stone said, “[I]f you’re going to pull [a particular episode] off for offending somebody, you don’t have any episodes of South Park left. Somebody will complain about every single episode.”
As a result of this latest assault on free speech, the Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor have declared Thursday, May 20th, to be “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”
According to Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris, who was originally behind “Draw Mohammed Day,” her purpose was not mean to disrespect any religion but to protect freedom of expression. Yet this week, we find that she has dropped out of the movement, which has gone “viral,” saying in an e-mail to a columnist who used her cartoon, “I am sort of freaked out by my name/image being all over the place.” In addition, Jon Wellington, the creator of a Facebook page dedicated to the day has also backed out, saying he was “aghast that so many people are posting deeply offensive pictures of the Prophet. Y'all go ahead if that's your bag, but count me out."
As the LA Times queries, “Did he think people were going to post flattering images?” The idea seems to have caught on, however – gone “viral,” as Norris says, and I don’t think the fact that Norris and Wellington have chickened out (what else are we supposed to think?) will stop others from participating.
And so the debate is on: Is “Draw Mohammed Day” a gratuitous slam against Islam that would be hurtful to moderate, non-violent Muslims? According to Ann Althouse, yes:
…[D]epictions of Muhammad offend millions of Muslims who are no part of the violent threats. In pushing back some people, you also hurt a lot of people who aren't doing anything (other than protecting their own interests by declining to pressure the extremists who are hurting the reputation of their religion).
I don't like the in-your-face message that we don't care about what other people hold sacred. Back in the days of the "Piss Christ" controversy, I wouldn't have supported an "Everybody Dunk a Crucifix in a Jar of Urine Day" to protest censorship. Dunking a crucifix in a jar of urine is something I have a perfect right to do, but it would gratuitously hurt many Christian bystanders to the controversy. I think opposing violence (and censorship) can be done in much better ways.
Unfortunately, the comparison to “Piss Christ” doesn’t hold water. The controversy behind the photo of a crucifix dunked in urine wasn’t so much that it was offensive to Christians (which it was), but that taxpayer dollars went to the artist to fund his vision. Also, to the best of my knowledge, artist Andres Serrano did not receive death threats or even death “warnings.”
Where are those Muslims who are not part of the violent threats? Are they condemning those making them? If so, we should commend them. If not, we should ask why they are silent.
I do not advocate going out of one’s way to offend someone else. However, I realize that in a free society, someone is always going to be doing or saying something that will offend somebody somewhere. I also realize that more free speech, not censorship, is the answer. If Muslims want to live in Western society, particularly in America, they should get used to the idea that free speech is sacred and not subject to the whims of one’s religious beliefs. And Westerners should realize that by allowing freedom of speech – something guaranteed to Americans by our Constitution, something not even all Western nations have – to be stifled out of fear (are you listening, Bill O’Reilly?), we inch closer and closer to dhimmitude and life under Sharia law.
“Draw Mohammed Day” may be offensive to some, but it would be worse than offensive for us to sit idly by while Islamists call the shots and further encroach upon our freedoms. It could well mean the eventual end of our society as we know it.